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Ten Days at Burg fürsteneck

Around sixty students of German school grades seven to nine can follow their (specific) learning interests at Burg Fürsteneck, located between Fulda and Bad Hersfeld in Germany. They come together for ten days during school holidays to participate in an extracurricular educational program. This includes various activities such as sports and leisure in addition to the majors and electives in different subject areas.

At an open day the students present their results allowing parents and guests to get an impression of everyday life at the academy.

The Hessian Student Academy has been held since 2004 and is supported by the Beilstein-Institut since 2011. Until 2010, the event was aimed exclusively at students and high school students. In 2011, the offer was extended by a Student Academy for Middle Schools.

The 9th Hessian Student Academy for Middle Schools took place from June, 30th June to July, 9th 2019. Five main courses in the fields of biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics and art and culture were offered. Moreover, the participants could choose two elective courses, e.g., graphic novels, improvisation theater, sustainability – political and scientific perspectives, gender and society, discovered or “only” invented? – where does mathematics come from? blogging, dancing, justice – how much justice can be there? JPC! – the magical paper art, and silent film and soundtrack. 


young researchers and creative minds

Guest afternoon of the 9th Hessian Student Academy for Middle Schools

 

For the ninth time since its foundation in 2011, the Hessian Student Academy for Middle Schools took place from June 30th to July 9th at Burg Fürsteneck in Eiterfeld. The academy is financially supported by the Hessian Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and the Beilstein-Institut. And for the ninth time, the approximately 60 students of German school grades seven to nine presented the results of their work to their relatives. From the five main courses in natural sciences (biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics) and art and culture, the students had chosen one and delved into the challenging topics.

The periodic table of elements was introduced 150 years ago by Dimiti Mendelejw and Lothar Meyer to classify chemical elements. In view of this anniversary, the chemistry course focused on the historical and scientific development of this classification and analyzed the relationship between atomic masses and element properties. In addition to biographical presentations on the scientists involved, the students also showed the results of selected element and application references they had studied. The physics course concentrated on statics, in particular on that of bridges. These have to withstand considerable forces and carry not only their own weight but also the payload. Moreover, they have to face weather influences such as snow and wind. The students determined how and where these forces act on the building. They developed structural strategies to decompose these forces and distribute them evenly over the building. In addition, the students dealt with the consequences of deformations of truss walls and dynamic loads, for example in vibration and resonance tests. The mathematics course mixed magic with the magic of numbers. The magic question (“Why do we need that?”) was answered playfully using the example of magic tricks and led to the analysis of permutations and group theories. The magic of numbers culminated in the idea of the Fibonacci sequence modulo, a sequence of numbers in which the sum of two consecutive numbers results in the number immediately following, but with prime numbers. The students amazed their parents with their new skills in mathematical reasoning, problem solving and communication. The biology course was very true-to-life and application-oriented when looking at the sensory organs, which are very powerful but also have their limits. In self-experiments, the students experienced the enormous efficiency of their senses and the transmission and processing of information in the brain. However, neither the sensory organs nor the brain are infallible and have repeatedly led the students on black ice through misinterpretations and deceptions. During their visit the parents could get an idea of both the performance and limits of their sensory organs.

In the art and culture course "My speaking body", the participants experienced to perform personal conditions and abstract situations, for example, in states. With installations, dance, theater, pictures and dialogues, the students dealt with new kinds of expressions.

The elective courses offered a mental balance to the main courses. From the wide range of ten elective courses, each student chose two courses. In addition to musical improvisation, contradance, theater improvisation, JPC! paper folding art, graphic novels, and blogging, a mathematics course, discussion rounds on freedom, justice and sustainability, gender and society were offered. Both in musical and in theatrical improvisation, the students came together within short time to form sounding, speaking and pantomimic ensembles whose performances were impressive. The paper folding art JPC (Julian's Paper Craft) is a new genre from Korea, which only uses scissors and paper – no glue, that inspired the students to paper works with wow effects. In the graphic novels course, the students were introduced to a special form of comics that offers new opportunities to artistic self-expression as an alternative to the well-known mangas. The blogging course created an academy blog, which was filled with various stylistic means such as reports and comments on the academy's everyday life e.g. the excellent catering from the kitchen. The mathematics course approached the world of numbers in a philosophical and relaxed way. While the students were lying down, obvious questions were discussed e.g., why is a square a rectangle? The answer is a definition that is as stringent as it is clear. In the courses ‘Freedom and Justice’, ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Gender and Society’ the undogmatic reflection with one's own and others' argumentation was of primary importance. The students proved that they master the art of unideological debate without a missionary urge. May they keep this gift.

At the closing session, the academy's management, Benedikt Weygandt and Ferenc Kréti, emphasized the value of the student academy, not as a substitute for or supplement to the conventional school system, but as a place that may lead to positive personal changes in the student’s life. As Kréti said: “We do not know the future, but we must be prepared for it. I don't know whether we elderly people have the necessary qualifications for this, but it might be a good starting point to promote creativity and alertness.” Overall, the students turned out to be curious, young researchers with very creative minds. A compliment to the organizers and the participants!

Impressions

The Hessian Student Academy is funded by:

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